Real Talk About Suicide is an interactive film with a mission. In the UK, suicide is the leading cause of death for men and women under the age of 35. But remarkably, most of us have very little idea about how to actually help a suicidal person.
This is why Grassroots Suicide Prevention contacted UNIT9 interactive film director Martin Percy. Grassroots are a charity based in Brighton, which works to stop suicide and reduce the stigma associated with it. This year, they won the GSK Impact Award for the most effective community-based health charity.
Grassroots had seen the Lifesaver interactive CPR training film created by Martin Percy and UNIT9. Grassroots wanted to do something similar for suicide.
Interactive film. A new form of storytelling
Interactive films turn viewers into doers. With linear films, viewers watch passively and absorb information. But if they don’t understand something – or aren’t even watching – a linear film has no way to detect this. But in an interactive film, the viewer has to think and make correct choices, or the film simply will not play. This involves a completely different mental process from passive viewing.
Formal medical research has tested the effectiveness of our interactive films for teaching people what to do in a crisis. You can see clips from these films here.
Medical research on our Lifesaver interactive CPR film found that it teaches CPR 29% better than far more expensive face-to-face training with plastic dummies. And formal medical research on our Heart Class CPR training film found that it teaches 47% better than the most popular form of CPR teaching for schools, using linear videos. This is the impact that Grassroots wanted to bring to suicide prevention.
Naturally, we needed the film to work easily on the maximum number of devices. So we used the new UNIT9 videoPlayer.
The UNIT9 videoPlayer was developed by UNIT9’s Yates Buckley, Mariano Cigliano and Krzysztof Puchalski, with producer Ben Hume-Paton. It is innovative software, which makes interactive films work on the modern web. As a result, Real Talk About Suicide works on Macs, PCs, iPads, iPhones and many Android phones. Without any plug-ins or downloads.
Sadly, most people’s understanding of interactive film is restricted to “Choose Your Own Adventure™” stories, so cleverly exemplified in Bandersnatch. Bandersnatch is a tongue-in-cheek labyrinth of choices – some meaningful, some meaningless – leading to a forest of inconsistent story endings. As Charlie Brooker intended, it is an ironic warts-and-all model of the Choose Your Own Adventure™ books of the 1980s.
Real Talk About Suicide is completely different. There are no pointless or arbitrary choices. Every option is based on insights from suicide prevention experts into what you should and shouldn’t do, when trying to help a suicidal person. If you get enough questions wrong – or lose focus – you’ll have to go back a bit and try again. But get it right and you’ll fight your way through to the only ending – where you sense the thrill of saving somebody.